(photo credit: Matthew Wagner)
What had appeared to be a straightforward dispute between the state and Palestinian petitioners over when to implement army orders to evacuate the illegal outpost of Migron has become more complicated after a lawyer representing the inhabitants of Migron pleaded his case before the court.
A panel of three justices headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch called the hearing on Monday to hear a technical request by the petitioners' lawyer, Michael Sfard, for a show-cause order instructing the government to explain why it was not immediately taking the necessary legal steps to dismantle the outpost.
Attorney Hanan Meltzer, representing the Migron settlers, argued that several years earlier, in circumstances similar to those of the present case, the court had rejected a petition by former MK Uzi Landau, who had demanded that the police carry out demolition orders against illegally built Palestinian houses in east Jerusalem.
According to Meltzer, the court had rejected the petition out of hand, saying that Landau should have included the Palestinians affected by the demolition order and that he should have taken the case to a lower court to resolve the dispute over the alleged illegal construction.
Meltzer said by the same token, the High Court should now throw out the Palestinian petition and that the petitioners should have taken the inhabitants of Migron to a lower court to resolve the ownership dispute.
Meltzer also argued that the settlers had purchased much of the land on which Migron is located and that other portions were not privately owned by Palestinians but were under the control of the Custodian of Abandoned Property in the civil government.
The court was taken by surprise by Meltzer's reference to the Landau petition and gave the state 90 days to reply to this and other arguments. It also gave the petitioners and Meltzer more days to respond to the state's reply.
A large group of settlers, headed by Pinchas Wallerstein and Yisrael Harel, rushed to congratulate Meltzer after the court adjourned.
The state had agreed with the petitioners regarding the status of Migron.
For example, they agreed that the land was privately owned by Palestinians and that the settlers who established Migron had trespassed on their land and established an illegal community. Today, there are 62 mobile homes, three prefabricated buildings, a permanent building under construction and other facilities in the area.
During a previous hearing, the High Court had granted the state's request to give it up to five months to determine their position on the timing of the settlement's evacuation. Sfard and the petitioners had agreed to the postponement at that hearing.
On Monday, Sfard asked the court for the show-cause order so that if the petitioners did not accept the government's decision, they would not have to start the entire hearing procedure from the beginning, thus losing even more time.
The next hearing is not set to take place for four or five months, a period longer than the court had originally granted the state to give its answer to the petition.